| NEW YORK, July 23
NEW YORK, July 23 Pieces of a ceiling known for
its carved neoclassical images of floating angels and windswept
women is all that is slated to remain of one of the oldest
independent bookstores in New York City, officials said.
The rest of the century-old Rizzoli Bookstore's interior in
midtown Manhattan will likely soon be reduced to rubble, said
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
After a long and unsuccessful battle by community members
and politicians to save the space, Rizzoli recently joined a
growing number of iconic New York businesses displaced or
permanently shuttered by soaring property values and a rising
demand for luxury housing.
As wealthy prospective buyers search for dwindling space to
transform into high-end retail or apartment sites, city
historians and sentimentalists fear that the shops and
restaurants from some of Manhattan's most notable eras have been
marked for extinction.
"New Yorkers are seeing buildings and institutions they
thought were going to be there forever disappearing," said
Simeon Bankoff, director of the city's Historic Districts
Council. "It seems to have reached a bit of a fever pitch."
In the past three months, establishments including Bowlmor
Lanes - a 78-year-old bowling alley near Union Square frequented
by President Richard Nixon - and local art shop Pearl Paint,
which opened downtown in 1933, shut their doors.
Bowlmor will be turned into high-end condominiums, while
Pearl's building was listed for $15 million as a possible
"condo-conversion opportunity," local media reported at the time
of its sale.
It is unknown what will become of Rizzoli and adjacent
buildings other than that the interiors, at least, would be
demolished. The site's developers did not respond to requests
"They're going to be replaced by what will most likely be
bland and uninteresting architecture," said Layla Law-Gisiko,
who lives near Rizzoli and fought for its preservation.
Rizzoli was denied landmark status by the Landmarks
Preservation Commission on the grounds that the building's
interior had been altered too much in recent decades to be
considered historic, the commission said in a statement.
CHAIN STORES ON BLEECKER
The business shutdowns are tied to the most recent real
estate boom, which ramped up in 2012, said Jonathan Miller, who
runs real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel Inc.
With the average apartment rental price in Manhattan at
$4,079 a month in June and steadily increasing, developers are
searching for spaces to build, Miller said.
Since purchasing occupied residential buildings can pose a
series of challenges when trying to rebuild and iconic qualities
add value, old businesses have become targets for developers.
Climbing commercial property values, in addition to
Manhattan's limited space, have created an increased incentive
for landlords to lease to large retailers and other big
Along Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, where small,
family-run businesses traditionally dominated, national apparel
retailers have popped up.
Storefront rents on the street can run about $650 per square
foot, gaining on pricey neighboring shopping destination SoHo,
which has retail space at a monthly average cost of $850 per
square foot, according to commercial real estate services firm
CBRE's most recent Manhattan property market report.
While real estate booms are cyclical and New York has long
been one of the world's most expensive cities, more of the city
seems to be affected, and possibly at increasing speeds, this
time around, Manhattan Borough President Brewer said.
There is no official database tracking the number of old
buildings being transformed. "It just happens one after
another," she said.
Brewer is considering a number of measures to combat what
she sees as a chain store takeover, including tax breaks for
landlords who lease to small businesses and a more streamlined
New York's current government-organized preservation efforts
trace their roots back to the demolition of the original New
York Penn Station in the early 1960s. The New York City
Landmarks Preservation Commission was launched in 1965, and as
many as 36,000 city buildings are now landmark protected,
broadly meaning they cannot be torn down.
All that is clear is that an overhaul in New York's
character is afoot, said Manhattan Institute for Policy Research
scholar Fred Siegel.
"Small retailers have been getting squeezed out of New York
for a long time," he said.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Dan Grebler and Eric